TIME: Sex Workers Are an Important Part of the Stonewall Story, But Their Role Has Been Forgotten

Late one evening in May of 1959, two members of the Los Angeles Police Department entered Cooper’s Doughnuts, a sketchy downtown coffee joint, looking for trouble. The LAPD, as the historians Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons have written, “prided itself on being one of the most determined enemies of homosexuality in the nation,” and Cooper’s was known to be an all-night hangout for gay people, drag queens, transgender and gender-nonconforming folks, and “hustlers”—part- or full-time sex workers. Many of them were people of color. The cops barged in that spring night and pointed at three customers, demanding, “You, you, and you—come with us.”

This was a familiar scene. Yet, for some reason, that night the crowd at Cooper’s had had enough. They started throwing donuts, then coffee. The police fled to their squad car and called for backup. Eventually, the cops managed to quell the riot, but not before fighting had spread to the streets and many of the people they’d attempted to target had escaped.

Incidents like the one at Cooper’s presaged the more famous queer uprising at the Stonewall Inn a decade later, but—except for Stonewall—these incidents have been largely forgotten. In the minds of many, Stonewall represents the beginning of a movement. Yet the activists at Stonewall built on decades of previous activism, and this activism was geared not merely toward the liberation of gay men and lesbians, but also toward the liberation of a wider group of queer people: trans and gender-nonconforming people, queer people of color and queer sex workers.

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Sex Workers are an important part of the Stonewall story, but their role has been forgotten by Scott W. Stern

June 27th, 2019


THE OUTLINE: If PornHub wants to support a cause, start with Sex Workers rights

News broke last month that Tumblr’s owner, Verizon, was looking to sell it. In response, the online porn company Pornhub swiftly inserted itself into the media fray by releasing a statement that it was "extremely interested" in purchasing Tumblr and that it wanted to restore the site as one welcome to porn and adult-content creators; Tumblr made headlines and was roundly criticized last year for its decision to ban all porn and NSFW content from the platform. The ban essentially destroyed the online livelihoods of sex workers who had created adult content on Tumblr as well as flagged and banned discussions surrounding LGBTQ+ issues and art containing nudity.

Many celebrated the news as the perfect pairing to ameliorate Tumblr’s porn ban, touting Pornhub’s brand of sex positivity that it has carefully crafted through its witty social justice-themed tweets and marketing about sex workers and sex positivity. However, Pornhub’s stated interest in Tumblr, when contrasted with its history of criticism from porn actors for its piracy of porn content and poor business practices, raises questions about disconnects between the company’s pro-porn actor marketing and its business practices. Ultimately, this speaks to how Pornhub co-opts online social-justice discourse in their marketing and branding only to act against those same ideals in their actual business practices.

Pornhub’s statement, first published by BuzzFeed, reinforced its pro-porn creators branding for which its online marketing has become known. Pornhub Vice President Corey Price expressed “dismay” at Tumblr’s porn ban and its efforts “to eradicate erotic communities on the platform, leaving many individuals without an asylum.”

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If PornHub wants to support a cause, start with Sex Workers rights by Muqing M. Zhang

June 20th, 2019


NEWSWEEK: ELIZABETH WARREN JOINS THOSE WHO WANT TO DECRIMINALIZE SEX WORK

Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Wednesday she is open to the idea of decriminalizing sex work in the country. She told the Washington Post she acknowledges that sex workers endure hardships and abuse, and she wants to make sure those affected by human sex trafficking are particularly protected.

"I'm open to decriminalization. Sex workers, like all workers, deserve autonomy but they are particularly vulnerable to physical and financial abuse and hardship," Warren said. "We need to make sure that we don't undermine legal protections for the most vulnerable, including the millions of individuals who are victims of human trafficking each year."

Just two years ago, Warren sponsored a bill that would "end banking for human traffickers" to hopefully halt their actions.

Warren, who represents Massachusetts, is among some 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls, and she now joins a handful of them in the decriminalization of prostitution and other sex work.

Sen. Kamala Harris from California earlier this year said she supported a bill that would decriminalize prostitution and other sex employment, per a report from The Hill.

"I think that we have to understand, though, that it is not as simple as that," Harris said in February. "There's an ecosystem around that, that involves crimes that harm people. And for those issues, I do not believe that anybody who hurts another human being or profits off of their exploitation should be ... free of criminal prosecution.

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Elizabeth Warren joins those who want to decriminalize Sex Work by Scott McDonald

June 20th, 2019


SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN: BDSM as a Tonic for Serious Illness

My mother enjoyed kinky sex. To be specific, in her late 50s, after two decades of singlehood and celibacy, she discovered that she enjoyed sexually dominating willingly submissive men. I’m so glad she did! Not only was I excited that she’d found a way to enjoy intimacy and erotic pleasure after a long period of being alone, but also it turned out that her sexuality provided an unexpected tool kit she used to face kidney cancer and dialysis.

Of course, we didn’t know that at first. Shortly after she discovered her newfound sexuality, a doctor discovered she had kidney cancer, and we both wondered if her adventures were about to come to an abrupt end.

“I don’t think I can live on dialysis,” she told me before the surgery, which would remove her cancerous kidney and hopefully render her cancer-free. I looked her in the eyes and told her that I didn’t think it would come to that, but that if it did, she could choose to live out her life—shorter though it might be—on her own terms. She wouldn’t have to accept dialysis if she didn’t want to.

The surgery was successful. The cancerous kidney was removed. There was no sign that the cancer had spread. We were relieved. But over the course of the next few months, something else went wrong and her remaining kidney failed. She was suddenly facing exactly the situation that, just months earlier, she told me she couldn’t live with. But somehow, she did, and during the three years that followed—years that involved daily dialysis treatments—she had some of the best times of her life. I believe that kinky sex was the reason. Here’s why:

 

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BDSM as a Tonic for Serious Illness by Elizabeth Anne Wood

June 20, 2019


THE ECONOMIST: The push to decriminalize sex work in New York

YANG SONG, a prostitute, worked in a massage parlour in Queens, New York. A Chinese immigrant, she was worried that her record of multiple arrests would block her path to citizenship and was reportedly saving up to get out of the business. One evening in late 2017, during a police raid from which she was apparently trying to escape, Ms Song fell four storeys from a balcony. She died the next morning. The Queens district attorney found no evidence of wrongdoing by the police.

In New York, as in most of America, selling sex is illegal and stories abound of the costs of criminalisation. Sex workers circle in and out of the criminal justice system for years. Their criminal records often prevent them from accessing housing and other kinds of work. Paying bail bonds puts many already impoverished sex workers into debt.

On June 10th, New York introduced the first state-wide package of bills to decriminalise sex work. It would remove criminal penalties related to the buying and selling of sex and regulate workers’ place of business to make them safer. It would also allow sex workers to apply for criminal records connected to sex work to be expunged.

The bill is unlikely to pass any time soon. It has many opponents, among them Gloria Steinem and the Catholic church. Critics worry that decriminalisation will encourage trafficking and offences against minors, though laws against those offences would remain untouched. But Richard Gottfried, chair of New York state assembly’s health committee says its introduction is nonetheless a historic step and reflects a growing movement for decriminalisation. “Trying to stop sex work between consenting adults should not be the business of the criminal justice system”, he says.

One of the biggest benefits of illegalisation is that it allows sex workers to more easily report crimes of which they are the victims. Activists in New York say that prostitutes tend to be hesitant about telling the police if they are attacked or raped for fear they themselves will be arrested. Meredith Dank, a research professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, says New York’s bill “gives them a voice. They can speak out”.

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The push to decriminalize Sex Work in New York by R.W

June 19th, 2019


NEWSWEEK: MASTERCARD NOW ALLOWING TRANSGENDER CUSTOMERS TO USE THEIR CHOSEN NAME ON CREDIT, DEBIT CARDS

Mastercard announced today it will begin allowing transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals to use their chosen name on debit and credit cards.

The True Name card will allow customers to use their preferred name on the front of their card without requiring a legal name change or additional proof of identity.

"Identity is an integral aspect of our selves, and our true names should be celebrated and valued," said Randall Tucker, Chief Inclusion Officer at Mastercard. "Knowing that something as simple as having the name that you identify with on a card can be such an emotional journey, we want to make it easier for each card to reflect the cardholder. Our vision is that every card should be for everyone."

Nearly one-third of people whose IDs list names or genders that do not match their gender identity report having negative experiences, including denial of service and harassment. Such discrimination has carried through to credit cards and payment mechanisms.

"For many in the LGBTQIA+ community, the name on their credit, debit or prepaid card does not reflect their true identity," the company said in a statement." As a result, for the transgender and non-binary community, the card in their pocket can serve as a source of sensitivity, misrepresenting their true identity when shopping and going about daily life."

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Mastercard now allowing Transgender customers to use their chosen name on credit, debit card by Daniel Avery

June 17th, 2019


JEZEBEL: California Bill Wants to Let Sex Workers Safely Report Crimes and Carry Condoms

As New York takes an unprecedented step toward decriminalization, California lawmakers are using a different approach to make sex work safer. A state bill sponsored by Sen. Scott Wiener would protect sex workers who come forward as witnesses or victims of serious crimes, and prohibit the possession of condoms from being used as probable cause for arrest. Instead of decriminalizing sex work, it would provide immunity from arrest under certain limited circumstances.

“When a sex worker is scared to come forward and report a crime, the sex worker is less safe, and we are all less safe as a community,” explained Wiener in a statement. “And, carrying condoms to protect one’s health should never be criminalized.”

The bill, SB 233, would prohibit a sex worker for being arrested if they are reporting any number of specified crimes, including sexual assault, trafficking, robbery, and burglary. This is critical, given that 60 percent of sex workers have experienced violence while working, according to a 2014 study by the University of California San Francisco and St. James Infirmary, a peer-based health clinic for sex workers. Of course, sex workers’ vulnerability to arrest can dissuade reporting of violent crimes (which makes no one safer, except for the perpetrators).

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California Bill wants to let Sex Workers safely report crimes and carry condoms by Tracy Clark-Flory

June 17th, 2019


REFINERY29: If You’re Into Kink, You Need to Join One Of These Dating Apps

Kink can encompass a lot of things: bondage, yes, but also spankingchokingfeetcuckolding, and watersports. And it turns out that many of us are at least a little bit kinky. One Canadian study asked over 1,000 adults about their sexual fantasies, and found that about half were interested in some kind of kink. The most popular kinks fell under the categories of voyeurism, fetishism, exhibitionism, masochism, and sadism.
“People want to be tied up,” researcher Christian Joyal told the Montreal Gazette. “As long as it’s with a consenting partner, people will be relieved to know that their desires are not necessarily abnormal.” He added, “One hundred years ago, oral sex was considered gross, 50 years ago it was illegal and now it is the number one fantasy. In 30 years from now, I would be surprised if BDSM wasn’t part of normal sexuality.”
Whatever you’re into, you’re far from alone. And while you can certainly ask your Tinder match if they want to choke you or exchange "kink menus" with your partner, there are also kink-specific dating apps out there to make the search for someone with compatible kinks a little bit easier.
Keep in mind that, as always, consent is mandatory — and if you match with someone who wants you to sign a "consent contract" or refuses to use a safe word, that's a red flag. If you don't already know your potential kink partner, sex and intimacy coach Shelby Devlin previously suggested to Refinery29 that it's a good idea to "[go] on a couple of dates and [get] a feel for someone, giving them an opportunity to demonstrate that they're good with boundaries, beforeyou do any BDSM.” And that goes for any other kink, too.
On the plus side, many people using kink-specific dating apps may already be kinky pros, rather than someone who just watched Fifty Shades of Grey for the first time. Here are a few kinky apps to get you started.
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June 17th, 2019

OPEN DEMOCRACY: The two-fronted fight of sex workers against trafficking

Sex worker organisations have struggled with the concept of ‘sex trafficking’ ever since it was mainstreamed into international law with the adoption of the UN Palermo Protocol nearly 20 years ago. Some collectives, such as EMPOWER Thailand, explicitly state that it is an unnecessary concept that was forced onto the global south by the global north. Other organisations were found to share EMPOWER’s position in a recent report from the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women. For these groups trafficking is, according to the report, “an issue that was introduced from outside the industry itself, propelled by a moralistic agenda, that organisations have felt obliged to understand, in order to counter the harmful effects of conceptually conflating trafficking and sex work.” Criticism of data collection methods that aim to assess the volume of trafficking for sexual exploitation and the often singular focus on trafficking in the sex industry is also widely shared by sex workers all around the world.

Nevertheless, it would be challenging to find a single sex worker organisation that does not acknowledge that exploitation and forced labour are common in the sex industry. That these phenomena exist and that they are dangerous are not disputed. Many groups have thus, often on shoestring budgets, instituted creative strategies to combat exploitative conditions and abuse in their communities. For others in the anti-trafficking field they should be natural allies. Yet they are often proactively prevented from engaging in anti-trafficking events and in discussions that are highly relevant to their communities.

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The two-fronted fight of Sex Workers against trafficking by Boglarka Fedorko

June 14th, 2019


ROLLING STONE: How the Tragic Death of Layleen Polanco Exposes Horrors of Criminalizing Sex Work

Last Friday, a 27-year-old transgender woman named Layleen Polanco was found unresponsive in a cell in Riker’s Island in New York City. Although attempts were made to revive her, she was pronounced dead at 3:45 p.m.

Polanco’s cause of death has not yet been revealed, though Aja Worthy-Davis, Executive Director for Public Affairs at the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner, told Rolling Stone that she did not appear to have been the victim of physical trauma and that the department is “performing additional toxicology and medical examinations to identify other possible factors.” Due to the mysterious circumstances surrounding Polanco’s death — as well as the fact that she was reportedly the 10th black transgender woman found dead in the United States in 2019 alone — LGBTQ activists have been vocal in protesting her death, demanding answers from Mayor Bill DeBlasio and calling for the immediate closure of Rikers Island.

Additional details that surfaced about Polanco’s death were even more heartbreaking. Polanco was being held in Rikers on failure to pay $500 bail resulting from bench warrants — warrants that are issued when an individual does not appear in court — related to an August 2017 arrest. The arrest was the result of an NYPD sting investigation after Polanco allegedly agreed to perform oral sex on an undercover officer in exchange for money. She was arrested for misdemeanor prostitution and a low-level drug possession offense.

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How the tragic Death of Layleen Polanco exposes horrors of criminalizing Sex Work by EJ Dickson

June 13th, 2019